Combining hands-on experience with theory, college degrees work for students – and find them work upon graduation.

One key ingredient sets many college degree programs apart from their university counterparts. They are unique in their ability to offer both degree-level learning and the vocational and experiential skills employers are looking for.

Many of the degree programs offered by colleges are programs that universities typically do not offer – such as Bachelor Interior Design (Honours) and Bachelor of Building Science (Honours).

Colleges also have the flexibility to meet growing market demand. Many are pioneering new, innovative degree programs.  For example, Algonquin College in Ottawa just launched a new Bachelor of Public Safety (Honours), which combines security and emergency management training, and will launch a Bachelor of Automation and Robotics (Honours) in 2019.  Other examples include the Bachelor of Health Information Science (Honours) at Kitchener’s Conestoga College and the new Health Care Technology Management (Honours) at Oshawa’s Durham College.

“Colleges have a mandate to ensure that programs are aligned to the employment needs of their communities,” says Maggie Cusson, Dean of Academic Development at Algonquin College. “The benefit to the colleges is that in providing degree programs, they continue to maintain that assurance of offering beneficial, in- demand programs that meet the needs of communities.”

Two other benefits to college degree programs are fairly universal across Canada: most colleges have maintained small-class learning environments.  While there is an occasional large class or theatre, classes are typically smaller than at many universities.  Secondly, degree programs offered in colleges typically have a work-integrated learning component that is work placement or co- op – allowing them to make connections in their chosen field and gain an advantage in future job applications.

Canadian colleges began offering degrees roughly two decades ago to meet the needs of a changing labour market.  More and more employers were looking for degrees in specific fields.  They wanted graduates with degree-level learning and hands-on, practical skills to meet the evolving needs of various industries and sectors, including health and technology.

In addition, many professional associations have changed and continue to change their educational requirements to degrees.  For example, a degree is required in order to practice interior design in Ontario.  This trend continues amidst changes across various fields in business, health and technology.

Notably, degrees offered by either colleges or universities must meet the same provincial degree standards.  However, in choosing to complete their degree at a college, students also graduate with employment-ready skills.

Megan Ramirez-Berend knows the benefit of those skills first-hand.  The Bachelor
of Hospitality and Tourism Management graduate already had a quality job opportunity lined up before she graduated and currently works as associate director at Cedar Ridge Camp outside Ottawa.

“The knowledge and experience I gained during [my] program gave me a wide variety of both industry specific and transferable skills,” the Algonquin College alumni explains.  “I get to use the skills and knowledge I have every day to help me to bring new ideas and tactics to my workplace.”

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